ST. PETERSBURG.- The State Hermitage Museum
is showing an exhibition of rare and historic photographs from 12 October 2019 to 11 October 2020. The exhibition is the first to be shown at a new space dedicated to photography at the museums Staraya Derevnya Restoration and Storage Centre in St Petersburg and follows the Photograph Conservation Initiative which was launched in the spring of 2010 and which over 5 years established a photograph conservation department at the museum.
The Hermitage collection includes more than 80,000 photographs reflecting the art of 19th and early 20th century photographers, and representing the most important milestones of pre-revolutionary Russian photographic art. Its core is formed by the Imperial collections from private libraries and apartments of the Winter Palace, augmented by nationalized collections from St. Petersburg mansions and palaces of notable families including the Bobrinskys, Shuvalovs, Sheremetevs, Yusupovs, Stroganovs and Levashovs. In the 1950s, photographs from the State Museum of the October Revolution were also added to the collection.
This exhibition includes approximately 70 items selected from the Department of Russian Culture, almost all of which are shown in public for the first time. It represents many key stages in the history of photography, reflecting technical and artistic aspects of its evolution between the 1850s and the 1910s when photographic experimentation was at its height. Using prints by both Russian and foreign photographers in the Hermitage collection, the exhibition looks at different techniques, some of them extremely rare. Several cameras from the Hermitage also illustrate the mechanical and optical improvements that took place in this period.
Of particular interest are unique examples of rare techniques such as the daguerreotype, ambrotype, and panotype, made by local and foreign photographers with the intent to expand the range of photographic technologies. The diversity of genres and subjects demonstrates the wide scope of uses for this pioneering invention, both as high art and as craft.
The exhibition has been organised by the Department of Russian Culture and the Laboratory of Scientific Restoration of Photographs at the State Hermitage Museum, which was founded with the support of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.